Monday, July 25, 2016

How To Take Advantage of the Next Technological Disruption

Every so often, a technology change comes along that disrupts life as we know it. Sometimes, adopting the change costs so much that individuals cannot really capitalize on it without already having huge sums of wealth at their disposal. Take the first computers, for example. These giant monstrosities filled rooms and were substantially less powerful than today's mobile phones, but were so expensive that only governments and high end research facilities really had the funds to utilize them. Over time, though, additional technological developments made them ready to mass market, and the technology that allowed the personal computer to exist spawned several companies ready to take advantage of that breakthrough, such as Microsoft and Apple.

Notably, these companies did not invent the personal computer. They also were not primarily responsible for the technological breakthrough that allowed the PC to exist on an engineering level. Rather, they positioned themselves with software and ideas that fit perfectly with the new technology to create new business models.

The internet exploded in the 90's dot com boom as a leveling of the playing field for all. Finally, anyone with a PC and web access could preach their message to the world. Eventually, that led to commerce, and worldwide household names such as Amazon, Google, and eBay. It also spawned new platforms with social media, like Facebook and Twitter.

Peer-to-peer commerce is the latest new development, with traditional business models being displaced by Uber and AirBnB, whose job consists primarily of connecting two interested parties to conduct commerce, all while taking a small cut off the top. You might argue that Paypal and eBay were doing this twenty years ago and these new companies are just porting the model to other businesses.

All of these companies came about due to technology shifts, some of which required nothing more than hard work and an idea to break through. The companies grew and morphed, but all of them are still around today. Several others didn't make it, even though the playing field was fairly level. So how do you adapt for the next technology change and capitalize on it?

Anticipate Disruptive Technology

You can guarantee that technology will change and develop. We have not yet hit a stagnation point, even though some of the developments of late may look quite similar to things we already have. Still, new developments keep coming month after month and year after year.

Keep updated on what might be coming down the pipeline through social media and tech articles. As you notice new technologies being introduced, you can start to brainstorm how your business could morph and capitalize on the new tech. Not every technology will present an opportunity for your business, of course, but you should anticipate that new tech trends will come and potentially affect your market. Take the time to reflect on these trends and try to identify how your business might utilize them.

Be Ready to Pivot

Knowing that a new technology is coming to shake up your business or industry prepares you, but does not create success for you. Your business needs to be ready to pivot and adapt in order to take advantage of that technology. Drag your feet and someone else may find ways to put the new technological trend to a use that may make your business model completely irrelevant.

Successful businesses find a way to move in the direction that makes them more successful. While, not directly impacted by a technological trend, Groupon found its roots as a totally different concept called The Point and morphed with feedback from their user community into a focus on saving money en masse. Their ability to move kept them from fading into oblivion.

Likewise, we have seen companies like Borders books and Barnes and Noble struggle at best to compete with Amazon once the technology changed. Part of the failure was their ill-preparedness to pivot with the new technology changes around them, and in part, they failed in executing.

Perform with Excellence

For every one of the companies that took a technological advancement and made it into an empire, there are hundreds, if not thousands, who tried but found themselves unable to capitalize on it. For some, timing got in the way. For others, inability to scale prevented success. Whatever the reason, some who take a leap on a technology thrive, while others cannot execute and end up fading out of existence.

Whether you jump at a new technology innovation or continue to operate your business the same way that you have been running it, perform with excellence in mind. Your customers will notice. New startups attempting to disrupt a market find their path more difficult if the existing players have a reputation for outstanding customer service. Customers might even be willing to give the incumbent a little more time to catch up, knowing that the product and service that come out in the end will be superior.

For someone trying to make a name for themselves in an industry, outstanding service and performance always differentiate one competitor from another. In new markets, particularly, a commitment to excellence and customer service drives repeat business.


What technology buzzword in articles today will completely radicalize your business market in the coming years? Some enhanced mobile technology, maybe 5G? Augmented Reality? Blockchain? 

Whatever it might be, you need to get ahead of the curve. Start reading about upcoming technology trends and determine how it might affect your business as well as what opportunities it may hold. 

Be ready to pivot and pivot fast. Get your team used to moving quickly and changing direction with whatever makes the most sense. Those who drag their feet will get left behind.

And once you set a course, execute it as well as you can. Set a course that forces you to push past your competition in a commitment to performance. Make your company the best at what it does in the world. Customers will come to you.

And whatever happens, don't worry. It will continue to change.